The Golden Age of Painting
Renaissance was a period of great cultural change throughout Europe leading to the foundation of the modern world. Scholars rediscovered Greek and Roman texts and began to teach Latin literature which triggered a new way of thinking, and eventually leading to an intellectual movement called humanism. In this transitional period, there was a great revival of classical Greek and Roman culture, art and architecture. Painting was one of the most varied forms of art of the Renaissance. With the use of the new techniques and mediums, painting had come a long way from maniera greca days with no sense of dept or emotion, to precise three dimensional illusions on flat surfaces. This paper will review major painting techniques, developed and enhanced during Renaissance, which enabled this transformation. Many art historians consider Giotto as the first Renaissance painter. He has abandoned the long-prevailed Byzantine style by pioneering a naturalistic approach of representation based on observation. His methods of pictorial expression based on observation initiated an early scientific age, which recognized the fact that the visual world mu st be observed before it can be analyzed and understood (Kleiner 381). Giotto achieved a sense of spatial depth and restored naturalism, simplicity and restraint to painting (Fraizer 272). Lamentation fresco reveals the essentials of his style. The strong diagonal rock in Lamentation gets viewer’s attention to Christ’s head which is not at the center. This fresco is composed of different groups which contribute overall composition of the painting. By managing light and shade in a stage like setting, he was able to add a volume and perspective to the painting. The use of the contrast of light and dark to add volume was one of the earliest examples towards the development of the chiaroscuro technique. Furthermore, his stage like settings could be
considered as an early example of the use perspective (Keliner 383). Lamentation is much more realistic in depicting the narrative since there is a sense of emotion in figures’ faces depicting the dramatic nature of the scene, and therefore displacing the Byzantine style. Italy was in the heart of the Renaissance movement in the fields of architecture and sculpture. However, in painting it was joined by another region of primary artistic influence and achievement, Northern Europe. The Italian Renaissance painting mainly treated biblical and classical subjects, while the painting in the Northern region featured scenes from everyday life (Van Dyke 221). One Flemish artist, Jan van Eyck perfected the oil painting technique where the particles of color were suspended in an oil-based medium. Using fast-drying oil, Van Eyck built up his pictures by applying translucent paint layers or glazes on an opaque monochrome underpainting (Fraizer 488). Compared to egg based tempera, which was the material of choice for most painters in 14th century, oil medium allowed artists to create richer colors with intense tonality, the illusion of glowing light, and enamel-like surfaces (Kleiner 400). Van Eyck’s “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride” was one of the finest examples of oil paintings of the time. He has skillfully used oil medium to create the light effects adding volume and depth to the painting. Every object was painted in great detail. Looking at the dog one can see its tiniest hairs with the right amount of coloring and shadowing. The convex mirror, complete with its spatial distortion, is another object that catches viewer’s eye. The scene’s credibility is augmented with mirror, because the viewers can see not only the principles, Arnolfini and his wife, but also two persons who look into the room through the door (Kleiner, 403). Finally, the lighting and the sense of depth in the painting could not have been made possible without the oil painting and his creativity. The viewer feels like he or sh e is looking directly at the scene....
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